In an exclusive interview with The Standard yesterday, Mr Pierre Minteh asserted: “I and all pan-Africanists want the matter of the continual border closure between The Gambia and Senegal to be definitively resolved, sooner than later. It is clear that the onus for this resolution lies on the Senegalese authorities because I cannot remember the Gambian authorities ever, unilaterally closing the border with Senegal. The Gambia takes the Ecowas Protocol on the Free Movement of Goods and People very seriously. Our government under President Jammeh has always adhered to the terms of the spirit and letter of this important protocol.
“We are aware that recently the Senegalese government has been making false allegations against The Gambia Government that we are responsible for the closure of the border. That is untrue. The Gambia holds the right to look after its interest and that of its people. Last week the border was opened at Kerr Ayib for three or four days and closed again. They open the border when it suits their interests and close it when they want to. The patience of The Gambia Government is not unlimited. The two countries must urgently sit at government level and resolve the issue. No union can be more powerful than a government.
“The government of Senegal has the mandate to control its borders, not some union. If the government of Senegal is serious about seeing these serial border impasse addressed, they must sit with their union and with The Gambia Government and resolve the issue once and for all. It is in their best interest because we have 700,000 Senegalese here compared to the small number of Gambians [in Senegal]. If this continues and those people had to go back to Senegal, the impact on their economy will be serious. Senegal cannot do without The Gambia; The Gambia cannot do without Senegal because we are condemned to live together as two countries when we are one people, indivisible under the eyes of God.
“We are not happy with the way the Senegalese government has been treating this border closure issue because they cannot tell us they do not have control over their transport union. If the Senegalese transport union can close the border anytime and the Senegalese government just sits there doing nothing, that smacks of insincerity. I think there is no rule of law there because they would have put mechanisms in place to ensure that the transport union does not make such arbitrary border closures a habit. I am imploring the Senegalese government to follow the rules of engagement between them and The Gambia. That a particular group of people can just whimsically close or open an international border is as irresponsible as it is unfair. We cannot allow such status quo to continue unchallenged.”
Mr Minteh, who has just been recruited to The Gambia’s diplomatic service asserted that the rapid and final resolution of the issue is in the best interest of both countries in view of the volume of trade and other bilateral ties.
“A lot of trade takes place between the two countries and such dastardly acts will impact badly on the economies of the two countries. They will close the border and the Senegalese authorities would not say anything but when it is time for gaamo they would instantaneously reopen it because they know thousands of Gambians go there and spend money. That is not fair to The Gambia. We have to sit at a table to discuss whatever grievances they may have.
Concluding, Mr Minteh enunciated: “I was in Addis Ababa for the 50th anniversary of the AU and the youth delegation called for free movement of people and resolution of border disputes. President Jammeh has always been a pan-Africanists who advocates free movement of goods and greater trade among Africans. I cannot and will not believe that there is nothing the Senegalese government can do about the border closures. The government has the absolute and sole mandate to control its borders. Most of the time Senegalese citizens traveling to The Gambia don’t face any problems but it is always difficult when Gambians are travelling to Senegal and some end up losing their properties.”
By Sainey Darboe]]>